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The new public health despotism Draconian rules are suppressing our humanity

Science has become anti-scientific. Credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty

Science has become anti-scientific. Credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty


October 25, 2021   12 mins

I live in the Bay Area, in a county where the vaccination rate is in the mid-80s. In late July, I was dropping my younger daughter off for a soccer day camp each morning. It was 10 kids running around an open field. They wore masks for six hours each day, and it was about 85° that week. Telling my fully vaccinated daughter to put that thing on, I felt compromised for participating in the charade. The old Scots Irish belligerence started welling up.

Rules are meant to codify some bit of rational truth and make it effective. These days, we find ourselves in situations where to do the genuinely rational thing might require breaking the rules of some institution. But to do so is to invite confrontation. You may go through an internal struggle, deciding how much resistance to put up. To insist on reasons is to be ornery, and you want to be sociable. You tell yourself, there is no point in being confrontational with staff at the YMCA who are themselves simply carrying out orders. There is nobody visible to whom you can address your reasons, nobody of whom you can demand an account.

After a year and a half of this, going along with it starts to become habitual. If you defy the mask order, and are challenged by somebody doing their job as instructed, chances are you’re going to back down and comply, which is worse than if you had complied to begin with. Even if you strongly suspect fear of the virus has been stoked out of proportion to serve bureaucratic and political interests, or as an artefact of the scaremongering business model of media, you may subtly adjust your view of the reality of Covid to bring it more into line with your actual behaviour. You can reduce the dissonance­ that way. The alternative is to be confronted every day with fresh examples of your own slavishness.

In the Hobbesian formula, the Leviathan relies upon fear to suppress pride. It is pride that makes men difficult to govern. It may be illuminating to view our Covid moment through this lens and consider how small moments of humiliation may be put in the service of a long-standing political project, or find their meaning and normative force in it.

Specifically, to play one’s part in Covid theatre, as in security theatre at the airport, is to suffer the unique humiliation of a rational being who submits to moments of social control that he knows to be founded upon untruths. That these are expressed in the language of science is especially grating.

We need to consider the good faith intellectual positions that greased the skids for our slide into an illiberal form of governance. For, in addition to the political opportunism surrounding Covid, there were also well-meaning efforts to control the pandemic by altering people’s behaviour. The question is: what were the means employed for doing this, and what was the view of human beings that made such means attractive? What we got, in the end, without anyone really intending it, may fairly be called a propaganda state that seeks to manipulate without persuading.

Here, “science” may be plainly anti-scientific, according to the circumstances. The word does not name a mode of inquiry, rather it is invoked to legitimise the transfer of sovereignty from democratic to technocratic bodies, and as a device for insulating such transfers from the realm of political contest. Can this be squared with the idea of representative government?

The Columbia law professor Philip Hamburger writes about the administrative state. It consists of a vast array of executive agencies that empower themselves to place people under binding obligations without recourse to legislation, sidestepping the Constitution’s separation of powers. In theory, only Congress can make laws. Its members are subject to the democratic process, so they must persuade their constituents, and one another. But as the administrative state has metastasised, supplanting the lawmaking power of the legislature, unelected bureaucrats increasingly set the contours of modern life with little accountability. They stake their legitimacy on claims of expertise rather than alignment with popular preferences. This trajectory began a century ago in the Progressive era, and took large strides forward during the New Deal and Great Society.

Hamburger puts this in historical context with other forms of unaccountable power, such as the notorious Star chamber of James I: “Ever tempted to exert more power with less effort, rulers are rarely content to govern merely through the law, and in their restless desire to escape its pathways, many of them try to work through other mechanisms.”

The “restless desire to escape” the inconvenience of law is one that progressives are especially prone to in their aspiration to transform society: merely extant majorities of opinion, and the legislative possibilities that are circumscribed by them, typically inspire not deference but impatience.

It is as beings capable of reason that the legislature is supposed to “represent” us. The judicial branch regards us in the same light. When a court issues a decision, the judge writes an opinion in which he explains his reasoning. He grounds the decision in law, precedent, common sense, and principles that he feels obliged to articulate and defend. This is what transforms the decision from mere fiat into something that is politically legitimate under the premises of republican government, capable of securing the assent of a free people. It constitutes the difference between simple power and authority.

The Nineties saw the rise of new currents in the social sciences that emphasised the cognitive incompetence of human beings. The “rational actor” model of human behaviour (a simplistic premise that had underwritten the party of the market for the previous half century) was deposed by the more psychologically informed school of behavioural economics, which teaches that our actions are largely guided by pre-reflective cognitive biases and heuristics. These biases tend to be functional, both in the sense that they reflect general patterns of reality, and because they offer “fast and frugal” substitutes for deliberation, which is a slow and costly activity. An adjacent thought can be found in phenomenological writers such as Merleau-Ponty and Hubert Dreyfus: the kind of thinking that consists of chains of propositional statements and logical inferences is a special case, not typical of animals with bodies. We are one such animal, and our everyday coping with the world must have a certain fluency to it, if we are not to be paralysed.

The developments in psychology that gave rise to behavioural economics provided a necessary revision to our under­standing of the human person, in the direction of realism. For the narrowly economistic “rational market actor” anthropology of the choosing self was indeed inadequate.

In their book Nudge, Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein point out that individual choices don’t usually happen in a vacuum. They are often sculpted by a “choice architecture” that may be more or less deliberate in its design, but generally operates beneath the threshold of awareness, as a kind of background cognitive scaffolding. A classic example is the placement of items on grocery store shelves. High margin items tend to be placed at eye level, while impulse purchases are placed in the slow-moving checkout line. Sugary cereals are placed at a child’s eye level, so the kid will nag his mother for some Lucky Charms.

Suggested reading
The new public health despotism

By Freddie Sayers

Why not exploit the power of choice architecture for the public good, and replace the Lucky charms with Brussels sprouts? Doing so has an obvious appeal. It is a non-coercive way to improve people’s behaviour without having to persuade them of anything. This offered obvious encouragement to the paternalistic tendencies of the administrative state. Following the publication of Nudge in 2009, both the Obama White House and the government of David Cameron in the UK established “nudge” units to operationalise the insights of behavioral economics. The examples that the nudgers like to offer by way of illustrating their techniques are uncontroversial – things like increasing the savings rate, or getting people to stop smoking.

As Thaler and Sunstein like to point out when they are on the defensive, they didn’t invent nudging, they merely gave it a name and articulated its principles in the language of social science. But this articulation has been highly consequential. When something banal is presented as a scientific finding, it becomes available to institutions, part of their toolkit for “evidence based interventions.”

“Behavioral insight” teams inspired by Nudge are currently operating in the European Commission, the United Nations, the WHO and, by Thaler’s reckoning, about 400 other entities in government and the NGO world, as well as in countless private corporations. It would be hard to overstate the degree to which this approach has been institutionalised.

In a recent interview with UnHerd, Thaler insisted that the nudge is simply a tool, one that can be used for good or ill. But, as with so many technological innovations, the availability of the tool alters the range of possibilities. Indeed, it alters the way objects in the world show up for the one who holds the tool. The innovation achieved here, at scale, is in the way government conceives its subjects: not as citizens whose considered consent must be secured, but as particles to be steered through a science of behavior management that relies on our pre-reflective biases.

One example that Thaler and Sunstein call attention to, in their advice to administrators, is the “emerging norm” bias. Norms of various descriptions have more or less purchase on us, for reasons one can speculate on endlessly. But if you tell people that some new norm is emerging, they are more likely to identify with it. It seems most people don’t want to be on the Wrong Side of History. So announcing the emergence of some new norm can become a self-fulfilling prophecy, a means of steering the herd. This holds obvious attraction for the vanguardist. It seems to promise that one can mark out the direction of history, and thereby make it so.

Such vanguardists may be ideologues, or they may simply be institutional players who have internalised the expansionary logic of the bureaucracies who employ them. The hygiene state propagandises a “new normal” of social distancing and face covering. Here is an outlandish medical morality of social atomisation, presented as something inevitable.

While economics was getting psychologised in the 1990s, a parallel development was happening in political science. Before getting into this, consider the larger frame. The Soviet Union had just collapsed. This placed “liberal-democracy” in a new situation, or rather returned it to a situation that had obtained in the mid-19th century.

Liberalism and democracy are two distinct things, not entirely at ease with one another. Their differences were submerged during the Cold War when they had a common enemy in Soviet communism, just as they had been submerged previously when they had a common enemy in monarchy.

When monarchy was finally eliminated as a rival to democracy in the revolutions of 1848, the alliance of convenience between liberalism and democracy threatened to break down. By 1861, John Stuart Mill was terrified that democratic majorities would constrain a liberalism consisting of “experiments in living.” The freedom of educated elites to explore new cultural terrain and projects of self-cultivation would require jettisoning religious interdictions, as well as the parochial affections and commitments by which the masses took their bearings. The basic problem was that such a liberatory project gets its political legitimacy by allying itself with democracy — first against monarchy, and then against communism.

As Adrian Vermeule puts it, liberalism fears that its dependence on and fundamental difference from democracy will be exposed if a sustained course of non-liberal popular opinion comes to light. The solution is to offer an idealised concept of democracy, sharply distinguished from “mere majoritarianism.” By this device, the liberal may get to preserve his self-understanding as a democrat. This can become quite strained, as in the reflex to call the popularly elected governments of Poland and Hungary “antidemocratic”. When Pew did opinion polling in Afghanistan a decade ago and found that something like 95% of respondents expressed a preference that sharia law should be the law of the land, this was not allowed to interrupt the conviction that making Afghanistan “democratic” would require a feminist social transformation. That is, an explicitly anti-majoritarian revolution.

Back to the Nineties. The hot career track for my cohort of Ph.D students in the political science department was to build up a theoretical edifice to strengthen the hyphen in “liberal-democracy”, kind of like Ptolemy’s addition of epicycles and other intricacies to the geocentric model of the solar system in an effort to save it from an accumulating body of observation. The political theorists of my generation did this under a rubric they called “deliberative democracy.” There was a quarrel at the time between Habermas and Rawls, and it was Rawls who insisted on this crucial point: if you could just establish the right framing conditions for deliberation, the demos would arrive at acceptably liberal positions. We should be able to formalise these conditions, it was thought. And conversely, wherever the opinions of the demos depart from an axis running roughly from the editorial page of the New York Times to that of the Wall Street Journal, it was taken to be prima facie evidence that there was some distorting influ­ence in the discursive conditions under which people were conducting their thought processes, or their conversations among themselves. The result was opinion that was not authentically democratic (i.e., not liberal).

Obviously, the prospect of populism was already causing some anxiety. Propping up “liberal-democracy” as a conceptual unity would require a cadre of subtle dia­lecticians working at a meta-level on the formal conditions of thought, nudging the populace through a cognitive framing operation to be conducted beneath the threshold of explicit argument. I remember there was one grad student in my department who was running experiments on focus groups, seeing if he could get them to think the right thoughts.

To my unsympathetic eye, this looked like an exercise in self-delusion by aspiring apparatchiks for whom a frankly elitist posture would have been psychologically untenable. I don’t know if that grad student got his subjects to think the right thoughts. But I have little doubt he got them to say the right thoughts, and thereby lend those thoughts the demotic imprimatur he was looking for. Maybe that was good enough. Political correctness might be understood as a device that became necessary for liberalism to continue to claim the mantle of democracy, even as prosecution of its program would require increasingly antidemocratic measures.

As it turns out, the best way to secure the discursive conditions for “deliberative democracy”, and install a proper choice architecture that will nudge the demos in the right direction, is to curate information. Soon, the Internet would both enable and undermine these aspirations.

Of all the platform firms, Google is singular. Its near-monopoly on search (around 90%) puts it in a position to steer thought. And increasingly, it avows the steering of thought as its unique responsibility. In an important article titled “Google.gov”, law professor Adam J. White details both the personnel flows and deep intellectual affini­ties between Google and the Obama White House. Hundreds of people switched jobs back and forth, some of them multiple times, between this one firm and the administration over eight years – an unprecedented alignment of corporate power and the executive branch. White writes that both aspired to “reshape Americans’ informational context, ensuring that we make choices based only upon what they consider the right kind of facts—while denying that there could be any values or politics embedded in the effort.”

One of the central tenets of progressives’ self-understanding is that they are pro-fact and pro-science, while their opponents (often the majority) are said to have an unaccountable aversion to these good things: they cling to fond illusions and irrational anxieties. It follows that good governance means giving people informed choices. This is not the same as giving people what they think they want, according to their untutored preferences. Informed choices are the ones that make sense within a well-curated informational context.

There is a distinct epistemic style that progressive politics took on during the mutual infatuation of Google and Obama. Here the idea of neutrality or objectivity is deployed to assert an identity between what liberals want to do and the interests of demos. This identity reveals itself once distortions of objective reality are cleared away.

Speaking at Google’s headquarters in 2007, Obama said he would use “the bully pulpit to give them good information.” The bully pulpit has previously been understood as a perch from which to attempt persuasion. Persuasion is what you do if you are engaged in democratic politics. Curating information, on the other hand, is what you do if you believe dissent from your outlook can only be due to a failure to properly process the relevant information. A cognitive failure, that is.

In the Founders Letter that accompanied Google’s 2004 initial public offering, Larry Page and Sergey Brin said their goal is “getting you exactly what you want, even when you aren’t sure what you need.” The perfect search engine would do this “with almost no effort” on the part of the user. In a 2013 update to the Founders Letter, Page said that “the search engine of my dreams provides information without you even having to ask.” Minimizing the user’s active input, Google will answer, not the question you might have posed yourself, but the question you should have asked. As Eric Schmidt told the Wall Street Journal, “[O]ne idea is that more and more searches are done on your behalf without you having to type. . . . I actually think most people don’t want Google to answer their questions. They want Google to tell them what they should be doing next.”

The firm will provide a kind of mental scaffold for us, guiding our intentions by shaping our informational context. This is to take the idea of trusteeship and install it in the infrastructure of thought.

But this effort has more or less failed, due to the proliferation of unauthorised voices on the Internet. The pandemic prompted clumsy efforts to regain control, and these have often backfired.

If we credit “public health” with any purposeful coherence, we might suppose the confusion it sowed was an unintended effect of approaching behavior modification as a game theoretical problem. In game theory, one assumes that people are self-interested maximizers of their own utility and tries to manipulate them based on this premise, which is sometimes best accomplished by sending deceptive signals. For example, early in the pandemic we were told masks don’t work, because the priority was to preserve a scarce supply of masks for health workers. More recently, the relative risks of the virus versus the vaccine for different demographics has been dismissed as irrelevant, for the sake of combatting vaccine hesitancy. But such deceptions, however well-intended, can succeed only if you have control over the flow of information. So once you go down this road of departing from the truth, you’re committed to censorship and rigorous narrative enforcement, which is very difficult to do in the Internet era.

The absurdities of COVID theatre could be taken as a tacit recognition of this state of affairs, much as security theater pointed to a new political accommodation after 9/11. In this accommodation, we have accepted the impossibility of grounding our practices in reality. We submit to ossified bureaucracies such as the TSA that have become self-protective interest groups. They can expand but never contract, and we must pretend reality is such as to justify their existence. Covid is likely to do for public health what 9/11 did for the security state. Going through an airport, we still take off our shoes – because twenty years ago, some clown tried to light his shoe on fire. We submit to being irradiated and groped, often as not. One tries to put out of mind facts such as this: in independent audits of airport security, about 80-90% of weapons pass through undetected. The microwave machine presents an imposing image of science that helps us bury such knowledge. We have a duty to carry out an ascetic introspection, searching out any remaining tendencies toward rational pride and regard for the truth, submitting them to analysis. Similarly, the irrationality of the Covid rules we comply with has perhaps become their main point. In complying, we enact the new terms of citizenship.


Matthew B Crawford writes the substack Archedelia


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Sam
Sam
2 years ago

I certainly enjoyed reading this. It breaks my heart to see kids being forced to wear masks all the time. Especially outside while they’re exercising!? It’s almost pathological.
For the first time in my life I feel like I wouldn’t want to bring children into this world. I’ve never felt that way before, and I hope the feeling passes.

Andrea X
Andrea X
2 years ago
Reply to  Sam

After 18 months, my eldest has just restarted doing scouting indoors, and they have to run around masked.
On the other hand, I can go Scottish Country Dancing in the same hall totally unmasked.

Hilary LW
Hilary LW
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrea X

Utter lunacy. But does anyone speak up to question or challenge this? That enforced silencing is what seems to me to be most sinister and totalitarian. We are muzzled in more ways than one.

Andrew Horsman
Andrew Horsman
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrea X

No they don’t have to run around in a mask. They can self-declare an exemption or, better, just simply don’t do it. Time to stand up to these bullies. If we don’t we will never get our power back.

Warren T
Warren T
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Horsman

Amen to that. Although I live in one of the more totalitarian states in the U.S. I refuse to wear a mask anywhere, despite the official “mandate” and the placards placed at the entrances of the stores. As a fully vaccinated healthy person, unless I make a stand here, I will become a sheep someday, which I simply refuse to do.

Nicholas Rowe
Nicholas Rowe
2 years ago
Reply to  Sam

There never was a good time to bring children into the world. Witness the Victorian poor. But even the infant of a day brings forth our compassion. The poem by the minor Great War poet May Wedderburn Cannan, From One Generation to Another, could be used to put all this in a sober perspective.
As for the nudgers, they got nudged back sharply in Afghanistan. They think themselves free of the irrational impulses of the masses, but in that country they were revealed to be possessed by the folly that humbles us all.
Whenever someone like Alastair Campbell asks rhetorically what is the big deal about wearing masks, we have Mr Crawford’s article as armour against the seductive allure.

Cheryl Jones
Cheryl Jones
2 years ago
Reply to  Nicholas Rowe

Alistair fecking Campbell…. That man makes my blood boil.

Andrew Horsman
Andrew Horsman
2 years ago
Reply to  Cheryl Jones

When he says “just wear an effing mask, I can do it so why can’t you?”, the devil inside me would want to reply “just cheer the eff up Alistair, I can do it so why can’t you?”. The better part of me would just smile pitifully. I hope the better part would win out.

The cognitive dissonance never makes ceases to astound me.

Last edited 2 years ago by Andrew Horsman
Martin Johnson
Martin Johnson
2 years ago
Reply to  Nicholas Rowe

They should have been nudged back sharply in Afghan, but they lack the intelligence and self-awareness to learn anything they don’t already believe. Our civilization will have to be very fortunate to survive their rule.

Iris C
Iris C
2 years ago
Reply to  Sam

We are told that we must wear mask to protect other people but if a proper mask is well-fitted over both nose and mouth then I cannot see how germs can float out and inflect others. If that is the case, then it should only be those who are vulnerable who should we forced to wear masks. It would then be a personal decision for everyone else whether or not to wear one. The situation as it is, where any old thing, complies with the law, is a waste of time and is detrimental to the cohesion of society..

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
2 years ago
Reply to  Iris C

Germs and viruses are very small, Iris. Of course no mask is hermetically sealed, otherwise we would rapidly suffocate!

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago
Reply to  Iris C

Surely we are not still having this conversation a year and a half into the epidemic. Do you have any idea of the size of a virus? Part of the problem with the mask agenda is that people actually believe they work. Maybe amend the narrative to
. ‘seeing as you know they work (wink), wear yours as your impenetrable protection and leave the rest of us alone’.

Andrew Horsman
Andrew Horsman
2 years ago
Reply to  Sam

I disagree. It is pathological.

adjective: Of, relating to, or manifesting behavior that is habitual, maladaptive, and compulsive.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago
Reply to  Sam

The debate on the efficacy of masks ended when we learned Covid was airborne. It is obvious that now masks are just about theatre and control.

Jonathan Weil
Jonathan Weil
2 years ago

Hang about
 wouldn’t the fact that Covid is airborne make masks seem more effective, not less?

Andrew Horsman
Andrew Horsman
2 years ago
Reply to  Jonathan Weil

Airborne as in aerosol rather than particulate transmission. Masks could stop particles (eg little globules of spit) but they cannot stop aerosols, unless they are one of those special filter kinds – and even the evidence of efficacy is, at best, weak. Incidentally, aerosol transmission means distancing is nonsensical too, because aerosols will circulate in the air for hours perhaps, whereas particles will fall to the floor. And, obviously, masks and distancing OUTDOORS are total utter nonsense. You don’t contract an airbourne virus outdoors, full stop.

The bigger (or at least as big) lie though is asymptomatic spread, though. If you are not suffering symptoms you are very unlikely to be able to transmit, though it could be that interventions which reduce symptoms but don’t prevent infection may confound that somewhat.

Basically the western political and medical establishment poo-ed its pants in spring 2020 but it’s been too embarrassed to admit it and clean itself up. It’s carrying on as if it is not there, and it is beginning to stink. The Emperor would be well advised to change his clothes.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
2 years ago
Reply to  Sam

But is this not the world that people like the author have helped bring about. It is rather too late to look upon your works and weep

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
2 years ago

I award this * to anyone who laboured their way through it all….

At the point of his talk of ‘Nudge’ I was about done with the Cod-Psychology, nu-Liberalsim, appeasement, clap-trap and scrolled through…

“situations where to do the genuinely rational thing might require breaking the rules of some institution. But to do so is to invite confrontation. You may go through an internal struggle, deciding how much resistance to put up. To insist on reasons is to be ornery, and you want to be sociable.”

NOT ME. I will not comply with any complete BS – and this covid response is not merely BS – it is Fas*ism, it is destroying the education, pensions, savings, education, social well being, economy, freedoms, mental health social health, physical health, stock market, bond market, small business, public transport, commercial real estate,……. and much more. This attack on society by the government, who are obviously out to destroy the West, has NOTHING to do with health, it is taking advantage of a catastrophe. It is ‘Great Reset, Build Back Better’, it is the Global elites destroying the middle class and working class, dividing society, mass migration, to get the Socialists in power for ever – and CBDC (Central Bank Digital Currency) coupled with MMT (Modern Monetary Theory) and UBI (Universal Basic Income) (because they are destroying the Global economy to force these 1984 controls on us) will turn us all into serfs owned by the Elites.

Anyone who thinks this is about health just needs to look at Vax Mandates – Government never will accept Natural Immunity, which 1/3 – 1/4 of the people have, and is more powerful than the vax. This proves it is not health – but increasing mandates, increasing the destruction of the economy. (If 5% of workers are fired, the economy could not take that shock in this utter chaos and deficit spending economy – and all for NO REASON to do with health)

So..no masking, vax, for me (I am not anti-vax, but have natural immunity I assume) – I have my horse dewormer and refuse to go along with participating in their destroying the West.

Currently I am reading
ï»ż “A History of Warfare Paperback – November 1, 1994 The acclaimed author and preeminent military historian John Keegan examines centuries of human conflict. From primitive man in the bronze age to the end of the cold war in the twentieth century, Keegan shows how armed conflict has been a primary preoccupation throughout the history of civilization and how deeply rooted its practice has become in our cultures. “

He is pretty down on the Clausewitzian viewpoint, and more that warfare created us, and is us. The examples of – say – Tito and his partisans killing one in 7 of their own people, Like Pol Pot, and Bosnia, and the Turk-Armanian thing, and on and on, people will fight for things – good and bad, by being good intentioned, bad intentions, and by coercion, but not us in this thing. We just waved the white flag and surrendered to Fas *ism, are watching our wonderful and amazing society being destroyed – and for no reason – Sweden and South Dakota did as well and better than the Lockdown places. Florida and Texas function wile California is wrecked….

If you do not fight oppression, you will be oppressed…. You all likely know the old Clausewitz gag – “WAR IS A MERE CONTINUATION OF POLICY BY OTHER MEANS” well – Covid Responce is mere continuation of war by other means.

Alan Thorpe
Alan Thorpe
2 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

Well said.

Laura Cattell
Laura Cattell
2 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

I was happy to read until I got to ‘horse dewormer’. You can’t possibly be expected to be taken seriously.

Nikolai Hegelstad
Nikolai Hegelstad
2 years ago
Reply to  Laura Cattell

Why? I for one didn’t find that unserious.

Douglas Proudfoot
Douglas Proudfoot
2 years ago
Reply to  Laura Cattell

The doctor who discovered invermectin got the Nobel Prize for Medicine. It’s routinely prescribed for humans to kill parasites. Describing invermectin as solely horse dewormer is deliberate misinformation. People who actually “follow the science” know that. People who ain’t serious, believe the privatized Ministry of Truth lies.

Last edited 2 years ago by Douglas Proudfoot
Laura Cattell
Laura Cattell
2 years ago

The science says it does nothing where Covid is concerned. It treats parasitic infection in animals and people. Covid is a virus not a parasite.

Laura Creighton
Laura Creighton
2 years ago
Reply to  Laura Cattell

(this was the 3 articles before as one piece, but it got flagged for approval)

Last edited 2 years ago by Laura Creighton
Paul Smithson
Paul Smithson
2 years ago
Reply to  Laura Cattell

That is indeed what MSM is telling people and amazingly some people believe that without questioning what motives the MSM and big pharma could possibly have for discrediting it.

Laura Cattell
Laura Cattell
2 years ago
Reply to  Paul Smithson


and the medical profession? What earthly reason would they have?

Last edited 2 years ago by Laura Cattell
Peter Branagan
Peter Branagan
2 years ago
Reply to  Laura Cattell

Reply to lauracattell112.

Check out FLCCC. Some of the best respiratory specialists and medical practitioners around the world WORKING IN THE FRONT LINE prescribe Ivermectin for Covid and have great success with it. They have NO FINANCIAL INTEREST or fundamental conflict of interest. They unlike the careerist, desk jockey, time servers in the WHO, CDC, EMA etc (who have been totally captured by Big Pharma) are interested in practical results not theoretical double blind trials and vast spread sheets so full of ‘noise’ the vested interest can get what they want out of the data. Double blind trials have now been weaponised by Big Pharma, as they are the only institutions able to afford the vast bureaucracy and cost involved.

For me, I go with practical results and avoid taking advice from those benefiting from the money trail.

Laura Cattell
Laura Cattell
2 years ago
Reply to  Peter Branagan

I’ve checked it out and this is what it says;
The editors of Frontiers in Pharmacology have taken down an article about the use of the antiparasitic drug ivermectin in COVID-19 patients. The paper, which was written by members of an organization called the Front Line COVID-19 Critical Care Alliance (FLCCC), had been provisionally accepted and posted in abstract form by the journal in January, but was ultimately rejected this Monday (March 1). The editors determined that it contained unsubstantiated claims and violated the journal’s editorial policies.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
2 years ago
Reply to  Laura Cattell

What we have unfortunately to understand is this: There is a well reasoned argument against draconian restrictions and manipulation of the population in the name of combatting an infectious disease. This is the type of case made by Matthew Crawford. I’m very persuaded that there has been a massive overreach by governments and institutions who find it all too convenient to repress making a proper case with full transparency.

But then there is a hysterical conspiratorial case which over the months of the pandemic manages to say that the whole thing is a ‘scandemic’, then that we should be treating covid with an anti-parasitic drug, and also that China has engaged in biological warfare!

This side is currently much weaker than those who want to control populations without proper scrutiny and evidence, but peddling such rubbish and launching endless ad-hominem attacks on everyone is also dangerous for our democracy, if only because it makes any case for not imposing legal restrictions more and more seem like the province of a few right wing zealots. Sweden by the way isn’t at all a libertarian’s idea of paradise!

Last edited 2 years ago by Andrew Fisher
Graham Stull
Graham Stull
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Fisher

Dear Andrew,
On the “anti-parasitic drug” you refer to, please read this:
https://journals.lww.com/americantherapeutics/Fulltext/2021/08000/Ivermectin_for_Prevention_and_Treatment_of.7.aspx

Peter Branagan
Peter Branagan
2 years ago
Reply to  Laura Cattell

Yes it was rejected by editors of that wretched, immoral rag. They are useful idiots, like yourself, who have been captured by Big Pharma.

Laura Cattell
Laura Cattell
2 years ago
Reply to  Peter Branagan

And you’re not a useful idiot for conspiracy theories?

Peter Branagan
Peter Branagan
2 years ago
Reply to  Laura Cattell

Nope. I carefully listen to all sides and go with those who have no vested interest.

K T
K T
2 years ago
Reply to  Laura Cattell

You are not nearly as smart as you think you are.

Doug Plumb
Doug Plumb
2 years ago
Reply to  Laura Cattell

Laura, you need to step back and remind yourself what an asshole is and work forward from this first principle. You will then learn to stop taking their advice and to only read them when you need a laugh.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago
Reply to  Laura Cattell

Many of the medical profession are compromised by money from the pharmaceutical industry (check out dollars for docs), many have to toe the company line if they are not independents, some are scared of being seen as dissidents and many simply do not have the time to read everything, debate and question. Doctors are not super humans
 that is for sure.

Laura Cattell
Laura Cattell
2 years ago

Nope sorry, I don’t go along with that. Are you seriously suggesting doctor’s arms are being twisted to give patients a vaccine?

Jane H
Jane H
2 years ago
Reply to  Laura Cattell

No arm twisting, just incentivising, doctors are paid for each flu jab they give.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago
Reply to  Jane H

And doctors (amongst others) are courted by pharmaceutical companies. I’m honestly surprised that the entire adult world (who have access to information) doesn’t know this. There are trillions of dollars at stake.

Warren T
Warren T
2 years ago
Reply to  Laura Cattell

What is your huge problem/issue with people who decide to take a doctor- prescribed medication to alleviate their symptoms?

Laura Cattell
Laura Cattell
2 years ago
Reply to  Warren T

What? No.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago
Reply to  Laura Cattell

These pills doc? Sure!

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago
Reply to  Laura Cattell

You appear naive? No doc, yes doc, three bags full doc. Firstly most doctors don’t actually give the vaccines and secondly most doctors absolutely do fall into the categories I mention.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
2 years ago
Reply to  Paul Smithson

Of course, Ivermectin isn’t produced by Big Pharma, is it (Merck)?! The double think is extraordinary.

Paul Smithson
Paul Smithson
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Fisher

There is a bit more too it than that so it isn’t double think it is just something that requires good commercial research as to what the business motives are.

Last edited 2 years ago by Paul Smithson
Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Fisher

Merck used to have the patent, now it is off patent so Merck can no longer make money from IVM. They recently went so far as to say that the drug is not safe
 this after supplying billions of doses to humans over many decades. IVM is one of the safest and cheapest drugs of all time.
In addition Merck and and Ridgeback were given $1.2 billion by the US government to develop a new antiviral – the one that has just landed at a cost of about $700.
You have to be a special kind of stupid to believe compromised scientists, big business, organisations, governments, social media and the corporate press, all of whom are controlled by big money. The only people that are believable at this stage are those with no financial interests.

Last edited 2 years ago by Lesley van Reenen
Laura Cattell
Laura Cattell
2 years ago

“They recently went so far as to say that the drug is not safe
 this after supplying billions of doses to humans over many decades.

So you would think after ‘supplying billions of doses over many decades’ they would have noticed a safety issue. The FDA recieve reports daily of potential problems with a drug.
Don’t you think you would need to be a special kind of stupid to believe that actually happened?

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago
Reply to  Laura Cattell

Oh dear. Please tell me you are not as shill for Merck. Let me repeat. Merck preached the safety of the drug when it was making money for them for many decades (safety confirmed by WHO VigiAccess – you can look it up). It is one of the safest drugs on the planet – more so than aspirin. The moment they saw their off patent drug being mooted as a potential cure for Covid, they warned against the safety thereof. Spot the huge smoking gun yet Laura?

Laura Cattell
Laura Cattell
2 years ago

What I spot is a ridiculous conspiracy theory.

Doug Plumb
Doug Plumb
2 years ago
Reply to  Laura Cattell

They have been lying about vaccine stats since the whole fiasco began. See many older PDFs free online written by docs that expose the whole vaccine fiasco. Are you one of those folks who thinks Osama blew up the towers on 9-11? Intelligence is often defined as the ability to recognize patterns.

Doug Plumb
Doug Plumb
2 years ago

Communism is when governments and corporations work together with the oligarchy in the interest of the common man.

John McKee
John McKee
1 year ago

AMEN!

Graham Stull
Graham Stull
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Fisher

Dear Andrew,
It’s off-patent. On-patent companies rarely produce off-patent versions of medicine they once developed. That is because their business model is such taht they concentrate on high margin, R&D. Once a molecule no longer has patent-protection, it is generally made by lower-margin generic producers like Tevia or the countless others (many are located in India).

Laura Creighton
Laura Creighton
2 years ago
Reply to  Laura Cattell

Veterinarians actually use it to treat viral infections as well. It’s been known to have anti-viral properties for ages and ages, i.e. it’s not just for worming horses. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7539925/ It may be that it is ineffective against covid, as other anti-virals have proven to be, but we will have to see how the trials work out. That the trials are on-going indicates that it is not a silly idea.

Laura Creighton
Laura Creighton
2 years ago

When the patent ran out on invermectin, Merck, who owns the patent wanted to develop an improved version that was patentable for the veterinary market. In conjunction with Emory university, they started work on something known as aEIDD-2801.
So when the covid pandemic happened, they got out this stuff out and tested it, because, why not? And was it ever successful!
https://news.emory.edu/stories/2021/03/coronavirus_DRIVE_molnupiravir/index.html

Last edited 2 years ago by Laura Creighton
Laura Creighton
Laura Creighton
2 years ago

200 patients, which is nowhere near as large a sample as you like, all admitted to hospital, all got the drug and every single one of them recovered.
In a larger sample size Merck is saying that it reduced sickness and death by at least 50%, but I haven’t found the study yet.
This is great news. aEIDD-2801, which they renamed ‘monupiravir’ is cheap to make and is a pill that you can use in an outpatient setting. It’s new, so warnings about new drugs and side effects that we only discover later still apply, but it’s not radical new technology in the same way an mRNA vaccine is. see: https://www.drugdiscoverytrends.com/early-safety-concerns-accompanied-mercks-molnupiravir-the-first-potential-oral-covid-19-therapy/ for discussion of some theoretical side effects, which nobody has seen yet. But, if it works, and Merck is asking for FDA approval right now and it is set to be fast tracked, it’s still horse medicine.

Laura Creighton
Laura Creighton
2 years ago

(In 3 chunks because the combined version was flagged for approval, sorry about that.)

Jonathan Weil
Jonathan Weil
2 years ago

I think you’ve got your facts mixed up. Molnupiravir wasn’t originally developed by Merck, but by Ridgeback Pharmaceuticals. It was always intended as an anti-viral (I think they had Ebola in mind originally), never as a veterinary medicine. Merck only came on board after the drug was rejected by the US government for political reasons (the guy backing it was seen as a Trump partisan; Matt Taibbi covers the story in depth; it’s a doozy). Your Emory link led nowhere by the way


Laura Creighton
Laura Creighton
2 years ago
Reply to  Jonathan Weil

Hmmm. I got the information about Merck from Emory, so sorry about that. Thank you for the correction.
I have fixed the Emory link, I don’t know how I managed to mangle that.
sorry about that, too.

Graham Stull
Graham Stull
2 years ago

Dear Laura,
The gold-standard for evidential research is meta-analysis of RCTs, because if well curated, they reduce error vis-a-vis a single high-powered trial.
The evidence for Ivermectin is already there. See here:
https://journals.lww.com/americantherapeutics/Fulltext/2021/08000/Ivermectin_for_Prevention_and_Treatment_of.7.aspx

Laura Creighton
Laura Creighton
2 years ago
Reply to  Graham Stull

Thank you.

Saul D
Saul D
2 years ago
Reply to  Laura Cattell

Ivermectin was discovered to have an effect against Covid in vitro in 2020 and has some clinical evidence of efficacy in against some viruses such as Dengue fever. As it’s relatively safe and widely used in human medicine, this encouraged use off-label.
Effectiveness in vitro often doesn’t translate to effectiveness in vivo, but formal trials can take a long time (eg hydroxychloroquine). My guess is that, like HCQ, efficacy in formal trials will be zero to minimal. However, until those trials come in, since the safety profile is good, it’s a low risk treatment with theoretical benefit that could be better than nothing.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7253113/

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago
Reply to  Laura Cattell

Im afraid if you use the phrase ‘the science’ in a case like this, you are opening yourself up to a barrage of ridicule.
Science is not always an incontrovertible truth and should be a process of trials and debate. When one sees a concerted effort by powerful entities to discredit and outright lie about a cheap and safe drug, you should be asking questions, not toeing the line.

Graham Stull
Graham Stull
2 years ago
Reply to  Laura Cattell
Martin Johnson
Martin Johnson
2 years ago
Reply to  Laura Cattell

Studies so far go both ways. There is good clinical evidence of efficacy under certain conditions and with certain dosages and protocols. It may be that ivermectin is effective to varying degrees, and in particular protocols, in certain situations that we do not yet understand.

By the way, people who refer to “the science” reveal themselves to be ignorant of the scientific method and are just using “science” as a rhetorical club that they do not understand.

Karl Schuldes
Karl Schuldes
2 years ago
Reply to  Laura Cattell

Aspirin has legitimate use as a blood thinner. Antihistamines are prescribed for tranquilizers. Chemicals can have widely varying effects in the body.

Paul Smithson
Paul Smithson
2 years ago
Reply to  Laura Cattell

I prefer to ‘follow the science’ and the genuine science (ie. that not funded by big pharma with ulterior motives) from around the world, very clearly demonstrates the effectiveness of Ivermectin.

Laura Cattell
Laura Cattell
2 years ago
Reply to  Paul Smithson

Your not following the science, you’re following a laughable conspiracy theory.

Peter Branagan
Peter Branagan
2 years ago
Reply to  Laura Cattell

You’re not following ‘the science’ you’re following the mob of time serving bureaucrats who’ve been bought by Big Pharma.

Paul Smithson
Paul Smithson
2 years ago
Reply to  Laura Cattell

Can you explain all of these conspiracy theories Laura?

https://ivmmeta.com/

It seems you are willing to believe anything that big pharma says, and the journals and websites that big pharma fund, but dismiss all the hard work of passionate scientists and doctors around the globe who may have a different opinion to you (heaven forbid) and insult them by calling them conspiracy theorists.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago
Reply to  Paul Smithson

Calling them conspiracy theorists and ‘quacks’ – the favourite terms of the people slavishly following corporate media. It is so mediocre.
Some of these people are giants in medicine.

Doug Plumb
Doug Plumb
2 years ago
Reply to  Laura Cattell

Aristotle said, in his The Politic, that politics is essentially the study of conspiracy. Conspiracies will be with us forever and they are a big part of our political reality, always have been and always will be.

Martin Johnson
Martin Johnson
2 years ago
Reply to  Laura Cattell

I suspect he was facetiously referring to human dose ivermectin

Davy Humerme
Davy Humerme
2 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

Oh i got Matthew’s nuanced and incisive article and its implications much better when you put your thoughts in shouty caps. Have a lie down.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
2 years ago
Reply to  Davy Humerme

As Thomas Jefferson, that beacon of enlightened freedom, said: “Tyranny prevails when good men do nothing“,”

And the above Apologetica article for the buckling under the tyranny, but whining about it a bit, fits that situation.

So would me having a lie down instead of ranting for freedom and against Fass* ism be good men doing nothing, like your post is….

Marcus Scott
Marcus Scott
2 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

If you comply you are complicit.
It is not practical to refuse to comply with these tyrannical and unlawful restrictions on every occasion but every individual can do their part by selectively refusing to be cowered.
I am heartened by the revolt in the US against vaccine mandates. As usual, it is working people who are leading that charge while the middle class are, for the most part, either willingly giving up their freedoms or are unwilling to risk social exclusion or shame by doing that which their friends and neighbours consider contemptible.

Doug Plumb
Doug Plumb
2 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

I agree with you almost completely, particularly wrt Kovid. But wrt UBI: The reality of the technological society is that there will not be enough work to do for everyone and that we need to change our culture. I think people who do not work should be rewarded less, but also seek out ways to improve themselves and therefore improve society. Team sport, athletics, and intellectualism could replace much of the 40-hour workweek. The benefits one provides for society cannot be accurately measured in dollars – many people are very well paid to implement this sick agenda that you and I both stand against.

Cheryl Jones
Cheryl Jones
2 years ago

If this were akin to some kind of highly contagious airborne Ebola I doubt even the strongest anti vax/anti lockdown libertarian protests wouldn’t be needed because I suspect voluntary compliance would run at 100%. But it isn’t that. There’s been so much about this whole pandemic that has made no sense and the same patterns have been observable across most of the world. Lockdowns, masks, vaccines, isolation, dependence on the state, the criminalisation of dissent. It is hard not to have some sympathy with so called ‘conspiracy theorists’ when the Davos crowd don’t even make a secret of their aims – and since when does the Davos crowd have anyone’s best interests at heart other than their own??? Or is it that they know something we don’t, that they know would create utter panic and societal breakdown if it were public? Is Covid a test of the public’s resilience – and compliance?

Last edited 2 years ago by Cheryl Jones
Jonathan Ellman
Jonathan Ellman
2 years ago
Reply to  Cheryl Jones

Great post. I don’t know if it was intended to be a test. But it certainly is being used as one now.

Alan Thorpe
Alan Thorpe
2 years ago
Reply to  Cheryl Jones

Ebola is transmitted through direct contact and there is no vaccine.

Last edited 2 years ago by Alan Thorpe
Molly McDougall
Molly McDougall
2 years ago
Reply to  Alan Thorpe

There’s two licensed vaccines for ebola.

Last edited 2 years ago by Molly McDougall
Jem Barnett
Jem Barnett
2 years ago

Yes, correct Molly.
And the 2 Ebola vaccines were the first Vector Vaccines to be approved for use in Europe, in late 2019.
Now we have 4 more Vector Vaccines in use, developed in 2020/21 for Covid-19. Astra Zeneca’s product is one of these, along with Russia’s Sputnik jab, and the Johnson & Johnson jabs being given in the USA.
The remaining C-19 jabs are either mRNA gene therapeutics (Pfizer; Moderna) or whole/subunit traditional vaccines (China’s Sinovac and the soon to be approved Novovax).

Jim Cox
Jim Cox
2 years ago

Thoroughly competent analysis of the reationship between Big Tech and illiberal democracy. President Obama did install more political appointees into the federal government than had been the case. These employees then were in a position to sabotage Trump initiatives.
Trump thus found himself in the unenviable position of having to battle political actors within his own executive
branch. Big Tech aided in this by helping to hide or suppress information inconvenient for the “elite” ruling class
(think Hunter Biden’s laptop).
,

Alan Thorpe
Alan Thorpe
2 years ago
Reply to  Jim Cox

Eisenhower warned us about the dangers of the military-industrial complex and research funding.

Saul D
Saul D
2 years ago

The theory of nudging is correct in that we use heuristics to simplify our decision making and those heuristics can be manipulated. However, a heuristic is a rule that is, in the main true or useful to us. If the powers-that-be create a nudge it will influence a heuristic, but it that heuristic then works against our interests, the nudge itself, and potentially the nudger itself, becomes distrusted and loses salience.
For instance advertisers use bright loud cartoon images to promote food and toys to children. Good parents observe the ‘nudge’ and start to use presence of cartoon characters on packaging as a reason not to buy.
You might get news programmes covering some stories more often than they merit (nudge), but people watching the news become sensitised to the nudge, which can then end up with rejection of the news channel completely.
So when governments play nudge games, the have to be really clear that the nudge is what citizens want, and to be aware if the nudge is covert and citizens don’t like it, then it can ricochet back to creating distrust with the government and institutions themselves.

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
2 years ago
Reply to  Saul D

Yes, the problem with nudge for the nudger is you don’t really know where it will actually lead. The most obvious nudge on television today is the disproportionate use of people of colour, most prominently people of recent African origin, in TV advertising. Everyone notices it because it is so far from their lived experience in the UK – except in limited immigrant enclaves.
Presumably the message is that we are purveyors of socially responsible products and take our commitment to diversity seriously We are good people selling good products.
Is it the message that people take away. I suspect not. People know that advertising is aiming to trick you by false representation. They might be encouraged to try the delicious looking Pizza advertised in unnaturally glowing colours and scrumptiousness despite knowing it will not be reproduced in real life. However will the extra layer of misrepresentation regarding the typical UK customer encourage them to follow through with a purchase or think this is a product mostly for Blacks and not for the likes of me.
Are such adverts actually doing what the advertising purports to be doing: increasing sales, or is it some corporate virtue signalling that is of no benefit to the shareholders?

Last edited 2 years ago by Jeremy Bray
AC Harper
AC Harper
2 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

You might reasonably argue that (in general) advertisements are designed by the educated (art graduates), approved by the educated (MBA graduates), and confirmed as effective by the educated (sociology graduates). Or, rather than ‘the educated’, the clerisy. The clerisy share a common world view and don’t value any experience outside that world view.

John Wilkes
John Wilkes
2 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

I must be a terrible disappointment to the advertising industry. I’m happy to pay for platforms such as netflix & spotify which avoid ads. I don’t watch any ads at all on tv or listen to commercial radio, I don’t use any (anti)-social media.
I have a deep fundamental distrust of any organisation which tries to influence or change my thoughts.
This is becoming increasingly difficult online, but I do make it a rule that aggressive advertisers who appear in my browser unbidden will get no business from me (sometimes if I am already a customer I will cease using them). It isn’t always possible in these days of near monopolies but I will continue to fight the good fight.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
2 years ago
Reply to  John Wilkes

Netflix is Satan owned, and all the degenerate and evil stuff it pumps into your house, paid for by you, is advertising for taking the dark path, or accepting the dark path the West is on.

Almost nothing on Netflix is uplifting, morally improving, wholesome, enlightening, improving – but 95% of it is deviant, degenerate, and morally bankrupt.

So you just pay for your advertising towards the dark side instead of getting it free – good for you.

Lindsay G
Lindsay G
2 years ago
Reply to  John Wilkes

I am the same, but do maintain a few social media accounts for my art.

Marco S
Marco S
2 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

I would not have dared to say that but agree 100%

Andrew Horsman
Andrew Horsman
2 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

I understand what you are saying but I would tend to disagree with your analysis. I think most people don’t really notice the skin colour of the people in adverts etc unless it is something that is a particular focus for their attention. One reason that it might be a focus for their attention is that they are an old school racist. Another is that they a wokist, focused excessively on an ill-articulated notion of racial injustice. Another is that they are an anti-racist anti-wokist, who is pee-ed (it really annoys me that Unherd doesn’t allow one to swear appropriately. B****y wokists. That’s a joke btw for those who struggle with this sort of thing) off by both that sort of racism and by wokism, which are two sides of the of the same, rapidly devaluing, coin. Then there are the majority of people who neither racist, nor wokist, nor anti-wokist, and who are just try to live their best lives in spite of all the nonsense they see on mainstream media, on social media, and even on the slightly edgy media like Unherd that bravely tries to tread the line between order and chaos.

Douglas Proudfoot
Douglas Proudfoot
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Horsman

I notice skin color in ads because of the recent prominence of Critical Racist Theory. In the US it’s looking more and more like we have a 50% black population. At first, I liked the diversity in ads. My sister in law is black. But now it’s just silly tokenism. What it tells me is that a lot of white actors are being discriminated against because of their skin color.

Jane H
Jane H
2 years ago

Ludicrous tick boxing even with regard to minority hair colouring

hugh bennett
hugh bennett
2 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Horsman

Sorry but i do think people are noticing the disproportionate number of black actors in UK adverts, i have… and i was surprised on two occasions recently when friends mentioned the same. It seems to create an adverse reaction though, as we feel patronised.
Anyway i now turn the sound down on most adverts or amuse myself counting the advertiserseffort at disproportionate racial representation. You can also play spot the Chinese person... have not seen one yet but no surprise as theres little or no great virtue signalling-mileage in that angle is there?! Thing is such cynicism by corporates may have a dangerous side to it.
Also, I dislike USA type race issues being imported into the UK when the contextual historical setting is not the same.

aaron david
aaron david
2 years ago
Reply to  Saul D

There is also the very real problem that what the nudgers want isn’t in the best interests of the population, that what might seem like a good idea to those doing the nudging, but it is, in reality, harmful to democracy or has long term side effects that are destructive.
The governments of Poland and Hungary make this clear, and having come through the horrors of state planning, a la communism, it is in much clearer focus there. As is pointed out in the article, “liberalism” is not always compatible with democracy. One must always remember that communism was, no matter the good intentions, taken over by bad actors long before it was used to run a country, that N***ism thought it was in the best interests of that country. And that both of these systems considered themselves “scientifically run.”
Can nations run themselves into a morally destructive nature via democracy? I suppose so, but bear in mind that both of the above-mentioned political systems got into power by undemocratic means. That they were so sure of their righteousness that they felt comfortable using propaganda, lies, and outright violence to move into a position of power. And in that self-righteousness killed millions.

Francis MacGabhann
Francis MacGabhann
2 years ago

The left have created a living hell, and they’re too stupid to even realise it. This state of affairs could not have come about in a society which was not made up of atomized individuals, and that, in turn, could only be brought about by a relentless campaign to convince people that “freedom” was an individual thing which required the breaking of all bonds with community, tradition and even family. In short, the creation of a new civilization, just exactly like those two industrial strength liars Sidney and Beatrice Webb boasted about with the Soviet Union. The only difference is that the use of violence is masked a little more efficiently, but the filth and corruption at the project’s heart is still apparent.

Last edited 2 years ago by Francis MacGabhann
Bogman Star
Bogman Star
2 years ago

There is no “left” in the US, ffs. The Democrats are a right-wing party. Nor, post-Blair, are there any lefties in power in Britain. Still, I suppose it’s all relative for you lot.

Francis MacGabhann
Francis MacGabhann
2 years ago
Reply to  Bogman Star

Yeah, right. “That wasn’t real socialism”.

Martin Smith
Martin Smith
2 years ago
Reply to  Bogman Star

Isn’t everything relative then?

Last edited 2 years ago by Martin Smith
Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
2 years ago
Reply to  Bogman Star

I agree. But the so-called Right has stolen the ideas of the Left and has put them into practice with a great deal of efficiency. The criticisms on this site of the ‘Left’ are not aimed correctly but no-one seems to see it.
The Right has been in power for many years, now with a large majority. The Right oversees the brainwashing of children who learn that the history of Britain is about one evil after another. The Right is manipulating the woke culture, which would be easy to stop – if there was a will.
The Right has found a legitimate way of using the police as a political cudgel – something which the Left could not achieve. The Right is in control when I daren’t go into the city centre at night. If there are claims that a government is Populist, you only have to look to the Right. The Right has borrowed money in a way that the Left saw as destabilising. The universities don’t need to pretend to be Left or Right – just woke.
As I have said before, the Left is stronger in opposition than in power. In opposition, there is no Covid, no shortage of HGV drivers, no inflation. In opposition everything is rosy.

Last edited 2 years ago by Chris Wheatley
Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
2 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

“The Right has been in power for many years, now with a large majority.”

The ‘Right’ in UK is to the Left of the Democrats. The Democrats are left of Clement Attlee.

It all is down to the ‘Means of Production’ Land Labour Capital.

Communism = state ownership of the means of production

Socialism (Left) = state control of the means of production

Capitalism (right) = Private ownership of the means of production.

Fas* ism = (Left) state and private collusion in the ownership and control of the means of production.

UK, Like USA Democrat Party, are Lefty Fas* ists!

Last edited 2 years ago by Galeti Tavas
Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
2 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

Hm. Giving things a label doesn’t help in a practical world. My point is not really theoretical – it is what I see and hear. Having dictionary definitions of the words is just confusing the issue.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
2 years ago
Reply to  Bogman Star

I know what you mean. What’s actually happened is that the far-left and the far-right are acting in tandem to create an everlasting Punch and Judy show, so the old ideas of ‘left’ and ‘right’ no longer apply. Basically, they’re two heads on the same beast, which is why I hate the left/right dichotomy. When we become politicized, our time, energy, and money actually feed the same stomach.
What we have now is an encroaching system of third-wave managerialism (first wave was private sector, second wave was public sector) that seeks to reorder the very fundaments of our lives. It’s a new kind of fascism enabled by social media and activists (useful idiots). It allows for the creation of new victim classes that the government has to step in and save, but in doing so, tramples on the liberties of the majority.
Those who resist or question this totalitarian ideology are deemed socially unacceptable and are lumped together with far-right extremists or domestic terrorists (such as the parents who are fighting critical theory indoctrination in the US; they are now under FBI investigation).
The pandemic and its subsequent lockdowns and covid passports play right along into this, which is why people want them gone as soon as possible.

Douglas Proudfoot
Douglas Proudfoot
2 years ago
Reply to  Bogman Star

It all depends on where you stand, Comrade. As a registered Republican resident of Suburban Chicago since 1972, I think I recognize the left when I see it. Socialism is government control of everything they don’t own and run directly. With the coming of Covid-19, the Wuhan virus, we definitely have socialism, imposed by Democrats. Some Democrats even call themselves Socialists, Like Benie Sanders and AOC.
I guess you’re going to go Humpty Dumpty on this. A word means what you say it means, and neither more nor less. The question is who is going to be the master, that’s all.

J Bryant
J Bryant
2 years ago

Great article. Painfully accurate. I wish it wasn’t true.
Is there a way to rein in Big Tech or sever the connection between them and the administrative state? As so often on Unherd, there’s insightful diagnosis of a problem with little attempt to identify solutions.

Alan Thorpe
Alan Thorpe
2 years ago
Reply to  J Bryant

This is the question that every discussion of this problem raises but I have yet to see any solution other than civil disobedience.

Martin Smith
Martin Smith
2 years ago
Reply to  J Bryant

The only solution is for a majority of people to refuse to comply. Open business regardless, go out whenever and wheresoever, mix with whomsoever and in whatever numbers. The more we comply the more rules will be brought in for us to comply to. It really is that simple.

Last edited 2 years ago by Martin Smith
stephaniehauselmann
stephaniehauselmann
2 years ago
Reply to  Martin Smith

But as long the big majority is so deeply afraid of covid, this will not happen. Fear will make us comply.

Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
2 years ago
Reply to  J Bryant

Like it or not, there is a base fundamental to face. Technology, and especially algorithmic technologies, are ultimately not regulatable.
Oh, laws can be passed by the bucketload. But algorithms are inherently unpolicable short of CCP style total control over hardware and software, and varieties of dystopian coercion. Ultimately, you cannot send huge numbers of doddering old civil servants to stand over the shoulders of millions of coders, to decide what the short and long term consequences of some IT project or product or service someone is making will be. You as a governing body can react to the ‘what-you-see’ effects of technologies – social media altering cultural behaviour and so on. But the seen effects represent only the tip of the iceberg and reacting to that is like reacting to symptoms.

We are a technological civilization, like it or not, there is no going back. The only question to decide is if you want the coercion of CCP style overbearing governance where anything and everything you do is watched by your governing bodies, or you allow the chaos of a free-for-all, where anyone, government, commercial organisations, individuals, are all capable of gathering data and watching each other and everyone else – if they are technology capable – a kind of tech arms race, intra-society.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
2 years ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

Well said Kotak, you always have good posts.

The algorithms are Biblical in how they twist what is good or evil in what information, attitudes, history, current events, influencers, and so on we watch – and the ones with the most power are all on the side of evil – Google, Youtube, all the big social media/tech are out to gradually turn us into a bland and miserable moral equivalent of Sodom and Gomorrah.

Douglas Proudfoot
Douglas Proudfoot
2 years ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

I think the size and span of control of Big Tech can be legislated. Please see my longer comment above.

Douglas Proudfoot
Douglas Proudfoot
2 years ago
Reply to  J Bryant

Big Tech can be broken up with span of control laws. In the US, for example, it’s illegal to own radio and TV stations in the same media market you own a major newspaper. The same kind of law can be legislated for Big Tech.
There’s no reason Google has to own Youtube and 90% of web advertising. There’s no reason Amazon has to own Prime streaming and Amazon Cloud Services. There’s no reason Facebook has to own Instagram and What’sApp. There’s no reason Big Tech should be allowed to buy up their competitors.
Let’s say that Republicans, bearing the brunt of Big Tech’s censorship and cancellations, are probably motivated to rein them in.

Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
2 years ago

The breakup scenarios illustrate one of the points I’m making. You will get an effect with breakups, but with side effects you may regret. Tech driven disruption would not slow down in that scenario, it will speed up.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not a fan of the tech giants: it is only a (short) matter of time before they become potentially unchallengeable by governments and very dangerous indeed, if current trajectories continue. So I agree we should do*something* to curb their power and influence. However, the very fact that they are small in number and almost like mini nation states in their own right (without any of the geography but with all the governance structures of nations) means they are understandabe and auditable, and just about accountable (I wouldn’t say regulatable). Breakups will cause dispersion of tech expertise to huge numbers of smaller entities, who will prove not just unpolicable but untraceable by governments. You may slow polorisation of wealth (for example), but at the cost of unleashing tech driven chaos. You will speed up effects like automation driven job loss, and the assault on government fiat by private blockchains. It’s like whacking a hornets nest, you will simply create a different, potentially bigger, problem for yourself, being attacked by a very large number of small entities.

Last edited 2 years ago by Prashant Kotak
Douglas Proudfoot
Douglas Proudfoot
2 years ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

I completely disagree. I distrust concentrations of power. The current cooperation of Big Tech with the left, to the point where free speech is a fiction, is something that’s a result of oligopily. The Parler shutdown is a big example of abuse of market power. Lesser known is the threat from Google to remove their ads that forced “The Federalist” and “Zero Hedge” to shut down their comment sections.
Breaking Big Tech up is the only way to deal with them. Otherwise, they will get too big for anyone to be able to deal with them, as you said.
A larger number of smaller organizations won’t have the power of the current oligarchs. The mere fact of breaking up Big Tech will make the resulting organizations more cautious when it comes to censorship.
I had a 45 year career in IT. I know how technical expertise is hired. I’m not worried about it dispersing, especially if it moves away from California.

Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
2 years ago

That’s fair enough and we will have to wait to see how things pan out. One thing, I cannot see the US breaking up its tech leviathans unless it sees parallel mirrored moves in China with it’s giants like Tencent, Huawei, Alibaba and so on. To break up the US giants risks handing China a big tech race advantage because of the scale that giant companies can afford. Personally, I think much larger numbers of smaller more agile companies would advance as well or faster than a small number of giants. But this is not exactly a given, there are risks in every direction, and I don’t believe the US legislators will be willing to take those risks by breaking up the US giants at this time.

Last edited 2 years ago by Prashant Kotak
Peter LR
Peter LR
2 years ago

A tour de force which I must study again.
It seems we have created a new oxymoron: liberal democrats!

David B
David B
2 years ago
Reply to  Peter LR

As often on this site,I would recommend “The Demon in Democracy” by Polish MEP Ryszard Legutko in which this conflict is well-discussed, with a focus on the New Boss Same As The Old Boss experience with western European liberal democratic politics after the fall of communism.

Last edited 2 years ago by David B
Alan Thorpe
Alan Thorpe
2 years ago
Reply to  David B

Democracy is the problem when in the hands of politicians. Plato saw the problems and many other philosophers have discussed it. Democracy only works when it limits the power of governments and today it is doing just the opposite.

andy young
andy young
2 years ago
Reply to  Alan Thorpe

Hmm. Ever since reading (several times now) The Open Society & Its Enemies by Popper I’ve been, shall we say, ‘concerned’ about Plato.

Andrew Horsman
Andrew Horsman
2 years ago
Reply to  andy young

You don’t have to read Popper to be concerned about Plato. You just have to read Plato. Though it does seem that some bright spark in Davos read The Republic and thought, yeah he’s got a point there, let’s ban poetry & false narratives and implement birth control to inculcate our population with ideas that will help them us to achieve our Great Society. We won’t tell people what we are doing because they just won’t understand (the silly unthinking cave-bound proles that they are) but, you know, you won’t own anything but you will be happy.

Douglas Proudfoot
Douglas Proudfoot
2 years ago
Reply to  Alan Thorpe

Government by the consent of the governed is not the problem. Ignorant and arrogant “experts” are the problem. The rule of law is far superior to the rule of “experts.” For one thing it’s more stable. Legislators don’t go from no masks, to manditory masks, to no masks if you’re vacinated, to two masks, to mandatory masks for all, vaccinated or not, in 18 months.
The malaise of recent time is the people figuring out they’re being governed without their consent, and being lied to.

Marco S
Marco S
2 years ago
Reply to  David B

it’s time to get out my copy of A State of Fear by Laura Dodsworth as we prepare for the next round of weaponised fear by the UK Government.

John Wilkes
John Wilkes
2 years ago
Reply to  Peter LR

Just as any country with the word democratic in its name (DDR, DR Congo etc) is deeply undemocratic, the word Liberal in the name of a political party now means the opposite.
Our own Liberal Democrats are neither liberal or democratic.
As someone who has regarded myself as a liberal my entire life it is very depressing. My views (which are still he same mainstream liberal views) are now seen as libertarian, or as I heard on the BBC the other day, extreme right wing libertarianism.
Liberal views are now apparently far right wing and dangerous. Authoritarian (socialist) views are described as progressive. Complete madness.

A S
A S
2 years ago

I have an eight year old and feel sad that she is having a childhood discouraged from hugging and touching other children. Given the low risks of Covid to children, it conjures an image in my mind of sending children in to explode mines to save the grown-ups. I feel in an authentically unselfish world, adults would – especially at this juncture (when this much time has gone by and most are vaccinated and/or have been infected) – take their chances (just get vaccinated or simply accept the remaining risks) and allow kids to flourish in a normal non-paranoid and carefree childhood. I feel we more and more do not genuinely put children first – a show is put on for it – but under the covers, it’s for politics or personal gain.

I saw an article recently about concern of social medial’s psychological damage citing young girls posting tiktok videos of extreme tics or tourettes. Right next to it was some article saying “who killed Colin Powell”. The irony and lack of self knowledge .. is intense.

Last edited 2 years ago by A S
Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
2 years ago
Reply to  A S

Harming the young to protect the very old and ill is such a sin it is incredible a single human goes along with it!

Peter Branagan
Peter Branagan
2 years ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

Couldn’t agree more -the ultimate crime against humanity.

Alex Stonor
Alex Stonor
2 years ago

Last night, I attended an outdoor event that occurs monthly ( a fire for full moon). A person attended who I knew to be very concerned about the spread of covid. A year ago at a similar event, he had refused to touch a packet of crisps in order to pass them to a neighbour; such was his aversion to this dreaded lurgy. Last night he was coughing & spluttering, sharing that he had had to take a day off work because his cold was so bad. I pointed out that a cold was also a coronavirus and probably capable of inducing pneumonia in a frail or sickly person. Not only are we supposed to go along with this regulatory claptrap and succumb to outright coercion to be vaccinated but we’ve learned nothing.

John Riordan
John Riordan
2 years ago

This is a brilliant article, I got a lot out of it. I read Thaler’s book Nudge when it came out over ten years ago and I was very interested in it, seeing it as something wholly positive at the time. What was not evident at the time of course (at least to me) is how the ideas described would be transformed into something more ominous by the dead hand of the State.

The sad reality of this is not new of course: well before Covid the various tentacles of the sprawling quangocracy in Britain were overstepping their mark by effectively leading tax and regulatory policy: the indoor smoking bans and the sugar tax are two prominent examples of this, in the case of the latter with a spokesperson for NICE asserting that there will be a sugar tax in advance of anyone from the Treasury or any elected official saying so first. The problem is obvious and really very serious.

And reading the article above, it echoes the rhetoric of times past when Progressives would justify their entitlement to the power they crave, with the ugly presumption involved in describing the “authentic” voice of the governed which turns out to be not what people themselves say, but what those in power “know” they ought to have said. Ever since freedom of speech gave power to the public, Progressives have sought to take that power from us without admitting that’s what they’re doing.

The tools may have changed, but the game is the same.

Last edited 2 years ago by John Riordan
kevin austin
kevin austin
2 years ago
Reply to  John Riordan

Sadly, I used GOOGLE to find these:
“Empire building is the pinnacle and most extreme level of the pyramid of bureaucracy . . . (It) occurs when one group attempts to regain or enhance its self-sufficiency by encroachment or by expanding its span of control even when that is not in the best interest of the organization.”
The boom in “Compliance” is a part of the EMPIRE BUILDING:
“The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 4.6 percent employment growth for compliance officers between 2019 and 2029. In that period, an estimated 15,600 jobs should open up. Compliance officers make sure companies and governing bodies stay in line with internal policies and regulatory requirements.”

William MacDougall
William MacDougall
2 years ago

Most interesting article, but I disagree on one point: “If you defy the mask order, and are challenged by somebody doing their job as instructed, chances are you’re going to back down and comply, which is worse than if you had complied to begin with.”
No; my policy is to wear masks only when asked, whatever the rules are; so in shops and the airport I don’t put my mask on until someone in authority asks me too, then I pull it out and put it on readily, or leave imediately. In taxis I grumble and don’t give the driver a tip, but I put it on if asked.  If a fellow customer asked me, I’d tell him to go mind his own business. In some cases, the business owner has always had every right to require masks, and we’ve always had the right to walk out if so asked. Increasingly, I’m not asked, and my little rebellion means I don’t have to wear a wretched mask so often, and also plays a small role in ending the mask nonsense. 
However, this kind of thinking is not really new. Lots of social customs are learnt, acquired, through society. Take queueing for underground trains: unheard of in most countries, but common in London. Masks used to be laughed at in the West, but were common in the East (I’m talking custom here, not law: pre-Covid they were of course illegal in some countries and mandatory in others).
I’m sceptical about the long term efficacy of nudge economics. Sure, it can work short term, but long term? During the recent British petrol shortages, a taxi driver suggested to me, unprompted, what I was already suspecting: that the petrol shortages were a deliberate attempt to encourage electric car purchases. Is that just conspiracy thinking, or could it be justified? In either case, that kind of nudge becomes less effective.

chris sullivan
chris sullivan
2 years ago

Bravo – a short history of brainwashing over the past 40 (?) years – how come Geobbels was vilified, he should have been awarded honorary doctorates from all over, even if post-humously !

Dustshoe Richinrut
Dustshoe Richinrut
2 years ago

The vaccination rate is in the mid-80s. The temperature is in the mid-80s. I wish we could return to the mid-Eighties alright. When the youth of Communist eastern Europe were straining to be cheered up by Western pop and rock. To be cheered up! Does nobody desire to laugh anymore? No political bigwig? Nobody knows what they’re about anymore. The big guys used to know. The Statue of Liberty knew.

What else? “The old Scots Irish belligerence started welling up.” You might fit a hyphen between Scots Irish!
And that was it? Did the belligerence fully well up? Is it now passĂ© to bring up an increasingly old-fashioned term? Was just a good old grumble kept to oneself enough? Anyway, well done on the interesting article. It’s learned alright. Meaning it’s good.

Edward De Beukelaer
Edward De Beukelaer
2 years ago

I liked the article.
In the comments somebody wrote that nobody proposes solutions (I have seen similar comments under other articles).
The solution for covid and all its shenanigans caused by panicked governments (well, euh, lobby led governments), is to change the way we view medicine. In stead of looking what causes illness, we have to start looking and researching what leads to health. (For illustration, a simple example: instead of looking why smoking causes cancer, looking at why some people smoke and do not get cancer…) By doing so the whole health sector will change and medicine will become human again (and natural in the sens of respecting nature) and also become affordable: but there will be lots and lots of resistance to this from the illness industry which has put its mark on everything to do with medicine.

Marco S
Marco S
2 years ago

In the 18th century T. R Malthus wrote An Essay on The Principle of Population. A key phrase refers to the increase of population by emigration or other causes the means of subsistence was increased and that further population was checked and the actual population kept equal by misery and vice.

Paul MacDonnell
Paul MacDonnell
2 years ago

This is an extremely important article.

Marco S
Marco S
2 years ago

I am not any kind of academic but I find this article and discussion stimulating.

Martin Bollis
Martin Bollis
2 years ago

We keep being told that American Academia is lost to the woke. This chap’s an academic and not the first to write an “anti consensus” view for Unherd.

Is his career now ruined? Is there a fight back underway? Was the problem exaggerated in the first place?

Laura Creighton
Laura Creighton
2 years ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

(tongue-firmly-in-cheek) If he’s a senior fellow at the University of Virginia’s Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture, but living in the San Francisco Bay Area, maybe he’s been sentenced to internal exile?

Sarah H
Sarah H
2 years ago

It read oddly but I assumed Chesapeake Bay?

Laura Creighton
Laura Creighton
2 years ago
Reply to  Sarah H

I don’t think so, because the first line of another unherd article, also written by him — https://unherd.com/2020/12/the-danger-of-safetyism/ is ‘I moved to California last summer.’

Last edited 2 years ago by Laura Creighton
Roger le Clercq
Roger le Clercq
2 years ago

Oh- I assumed there was a Bay Area in Virginia. Must do better. No more Masques.

Liz Walsh
Liz Walsh
2 years ago

The SF Bay Area actually includes many voluntarily rusticated laborers in the vineyard of truth. We have a lovely geographical location, fly under the radar of the booboisie, and generally have the best of both worlds.

Martin Bollis
Martin Bollis
2 years ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

I’d also been puzzled by the Bay Area thing but assumed it was my lack of knowledge of US geography. Maybe all tuition is now zoom based

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
2 years ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

His article is not anything woke would be bothered by – I stopped reading early as it was so woke – especially as they see it is being written to appeased independent thinkers.

kevin austin
kevin austin
2 years ago

p.s I had an encounter in Kensington Gardens a couple of weeks back. My Labrador, CHARLIE, was sniffing a COCKER SPANIEL as we turned off on to the gravel track that runs up to the ALBERT MEMORIAL. Suddenly, a child on a scooter came hurtling towards me: “Watch out” he squealed!
Mummy appeared and said: “No, you watch out. Use your brakes”.
I turned and looked and it was our future Queen KATE. I thought, I recognise you…
All over in a flash, but Charlie got some sort of NOROVIRUS post-sniffing. Apparently it was all over St Mary Abbots and Wilmots.

Katrina Collins
Katrina Collins
2 years ago

I am glad Matthew Crawford has seen the light. I admired his earlier work but then I read a piece early on in the pandemic that seemed timid. I was really disappointed that such a brilliant thinker couldn’t think his way out of the covid craziness box. Seems like he has now.

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
2 years ago

I don’t think we should be wearing masks. Why? Because people have become used to them and the whole thing no longer works. Where I live, masks in communal areas are mandatory. Every week I to my local Tesco and count people. Usually I see about 25% of the staff and customers not wearing masks. There is an announcement in the shop, “You must wear masks unless you are exempt from wearing them.” Another 25% wear the masks under the nose.
All of the theory in this article is a waste of time for bored intellectuals over the weekend. Who cares who wrote what when? The whole thing is only a matter of practicality, not theory.

Davy Humerme
Davy Humerme
2 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

Because you need theory and evidence and argument unless you object purely the basis of your feelings.

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
2 years ago
Reply to  Davy Humerme

When you have 64 million theories and arguments, which one is correct. Answer: depends whether you use Trump’s definition of Democracy or Biden’s.

Shawn Smith
Shawn Smith
2 years ago

In my opinion you were compromised vaccinating your “younger daughter”… that’s where the public charade has to stop. Not the mask wearing afterwards.

Katrina Collins
Katrina Collins
2 years ago
Reply to  Shawn Smith

oops I missed that he had vaccinated his daughter. Reread it and you are right. Wow, I guess he does believe a lot of the nonsense. I mean if the masks are bullshit, why do you believe in the magical vaccine? The “experts” say we still have to wear the masks because the vaccine that they claimed was 95% effective ( remember! so wonderful, they stopped the trial early! ).. well, actually its not very effective at all. So supposedly, that is Matthew Crawford’s daughter is wearing a mask at outdoor soccer.

Andrew Roman
Andrew Roman
2 years ago

Matthew wrote:
“Rules are meant to codify some bit of rational truth and make it effective.” 
That is one use of rules, but a rather idealized one. Historically we have had many rules that governments have legislated that codified religious beliefs about the supernatural, or beliefs about morality emanating from the writings of ecumenical conventions of church leaders. For example, until the 1970s homosexuality in my country, Canada, was a serious crime. It was then decriminalized, and later, protection was added to the human rights code to make it an offence to discriminate against homosexuals in the ways specified in the code. Similar protections were added about racial discrimination as well as other forms of discrimination. The rules changed because attitudes changed, changing the perception of what had previously been seen as rational truth to dogmatic falsehood. The truth didn’t change, opinions or attitudes about what was the truth changed.
The current rules governing mask wearing and vaccination are also codifications of evolving popular opinions or attitudes. If and when the public is more concerned about or annoyed with mandatory mask wearing for children, or for adults outdoors, or wearing at any time and anywhere, the rules will be lifted, albeit with a lag.
The problems with rules transcend mere rationality. Every society has to find its balance between the freedoms of the individual and the needs of the collectivity. That balance changes, sometimes rapidly, and in relation to specific issues, of which response to covid-19 is a current example.
We seem to be living, for several decades, in an age in which the collective is in ascendancy and individualism is in decline. For example, some decades ago seat belt wearing became mandatory, overruling individual choice, because it was seen as a safety rule for the common good. People who opposed it were soon marginalized, as there appeared to be a lot of empirical evidence supporting it. But that was long before the identity politics of today.
Today, getting vaccinated and wearing a mask is not mere capitulation to collectivity. These actions also serve as symbols of identity: being a socially caring and prudent individual persuaded by “the science”. To be opposed to vaccination and masks is commonly seen as selfish, ignorant and rebellious for the sake of rebellion. That is why, at this time, many governments can make vaccinations and mask wearing effectively mandatory, and also make proof of vaccination through passports an effective rule.
The “rational truth” about covid-19 vaccinations and mask wearing and herd immunity and other potentially relevant evidence hasn’t changed since the pandemic began. But knowledge of it has changed as we have learned more about it. However, that knowledge is not evenly distributed throughout the population over time. Rather than spending most of their daily free time trying to read and understand epidemiological statistics in scientific articles the public has simply trusted their favoured political leaders. This is what has built the attitudes to the pandemic in evidence today.
There is a feedback loop between politicians (and their bureaucracies) both shaping public opinion and responding to evolving public opinion. But the ability to shape or nudge public behaviour that is unpleasant, such as vaccinations and, especially, mask wearing, has its limits. Perhaps those limits will soon be tested.

Stephen Easton
Stephen Easton
2 years ago

Good article.
There is a great piece by the late Alan Watts on the After Skool You Tube channel.
He highlights the great conceit that is involved in thinking that one knows what is good for others and how destructive this can be.
The so called elite are guilty of this conceit and are creating great damage through their actions.

Last edited 2 years ago by Stephen Easton
Nicholas Taylor
Nicholas Taylor
2 years ago

This article has sent my notion of liberal-democracy back to the drawing board. Aside from that, thinking of Covid theatre in the UK, where there are only four states to disagree in detail over mandates, and anti-mask-and-vax cults are marginal rather than mainstream political, compliance with government diktat has been quite consistent. Only the closing down of employment has caused tension to rise, which is why government now confines itself to ‘advice’, relying on 74% of the population in England being vaccinated with 68% at least double-vaccinated (rest of UK broadly similar). What has stood out since March 2020 is the clarity and confidence of scientific advice and the minimal effect it and any of the government measures based on it have had.
Since removal or formal restrictions in July 2021, compliance with masking advice has become patchy, and then limited to structured environments like stores, surgeries and public transport, even quirky with a few perfectly fit-looking people walking around masked in empty streets. Restaurants are full and no-one is masked, and as far as I can tell, children don’t have to wear masks when running around fields. That is not to say everyone has become blasĂ©. You’d be surprised how many older people carry their ‘vaccination passports’. Before vaccination changed the game, there was some enforcement of ‘social distancing’ but it was generally low key, though the police would break up large gatherings of young people.
However, occasionally a lurking undercurrent of despotism was exposed by the thinning of the consensual skin of public life. For example, in January 2021 police fined two women for walking in a park. A witness said there were so many police she thought someone had been murdered. The officers justified their action in terms of the ‘spirit of lockdown’. I expect readers can think of occasions when officials have enforced the ‘spirit’ of health-and-safety ‘rules’ that don’t exist. However, as the author points out, confrontation with that sort of people is counter-productive, because the nature of their authority is that it is not subject to reason and if they back down it evaporates. ‘Eternal vigilance’ is crucial, but more difficult to maintain than in the grand theatre of politics because such ‘authority’ tends to pick on individuals who may be unsuspecting.

David Whitaker
David Whitaker
2 years ago

This is a powerful essay and makes a very good argument. But, on masks specifically, I think it misses an important point: many people (I believe – I am one) wear masks because we have listened to the arguments and studied the evidence and we think that on balance it is sensible to do so, as well as courteous to others. We might like mask-wearing to be mandatory, or strongly advised, because there are many people who are not wearing masks, which we think is putting us and others at risk. I think the issue of mask-wearing has become political in the US to a degree that it hasn’t here, thankfully. In the UK, by and large, the debate on masks (such as it is) is driven by perceptions and understanding of risk and not by attitudes towards the government.

Paul Smithson
Paul Smithson
2 years ago
Reply to  David Whitaker

With all due respect David, how are other people putting you at risk if your mask works? Are you saying your mask doesn’t work very well? If so, would it not be fairer if you got yourself a better mask and let other people be free to live their life how they want.

That way those, like yourself, who have faith in the mask and are not worried about the reduction in oxygen and/or rebreathing their own bacteria, will be happy and those who prefer to breathe fresh air and get the maximum oxygen into their lungs will be happy.

Last edited 2 years ago by Paul Smithson
Warren T
Warren T
2 years ago
Reply to  Paul Smithson

Too much common sense there Paul.

Warren T
Warren T
2 years ago
Reply to  David Whitaker

I, and millions of others around the globe, would be hugely grateful if you could post the evidence that you studied that would show wearing a mask prevents the spread of Covid.

Fran Martinez
Fran Martinez
2 years ago

Excellent article as always!

Kathryn Dwyer
Kathryn Dwyer
2 years ago

Brilliant essay. So many great points that all need saying and repeating many times if we are to resist the censorship and single narrative and question the ‘un’ science.

Martin Johnson
Martin Johnson
2 years ago

The US is seeing the wisdom of a federal government. Some states with authoritarian leanings and leadership are doing crazy vax and mask measures, but states that value liberty are largely free of that crap except for some progressive municipalities. It’s far from perfect but at least to some degree people get closer to what they want.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago

There are no studies proving that the regular cloth and surgical masks work (excluding N95 masks) – and obviously this is a difficult study if one imagines size of groups involved and ability to actually measure compliance of the masked group. A little logic goes a long way
. How do these masks prevent virus aerosols from spreading? They can’t. The cheesy example of a fence put up on an open field is accurate.

Howard Gleave
Howard Gleave
2 years ago

This is surely one of the most illuminating essays I’ve ever read. It distills the very essence of “A State of Fear” (Dodsworth) while putting “nudge” into an even broader context. An essay to print out.

Jeff Carr
Jeff Carr
2 years ago

I came to this article late through a link from Jacob Howland.
It makes a lot of sense.
It is, but not explicitly, saying that liberalism is undemocratic. Liberalism, per se, may not be undemocratic but it’s proponents increasingly are as their views have diverged from the cultural and moral values of the populus.
The European Union is the epitome of Hamburger’s administrative state with power and control exercised by the Commission with no real democratic accountability. Doesn’t our Establishment understand this? Of course, they do. But they believe they are right and the populus are wrong

Doug Plumb
Doug Plumb
2 years ago

Christianity, as I learned it from Kant, keeps our boat tied to the dock so that it does not drift onto unknown territory. It’s not difficult to see why the “elites” and “mini-elites” have been at war with Christianity since its emergence. I wish more readers could discover Christianity, not the dumbed-down Churchianity versions, but the brainy version of the master, Kant (Religion within the Boundaries of Mere Reason). To this end, I have written a book “Assholes and Bullshit: A Language Problem”. Christianity, above all else, is about knowing what an asshole is – something we Westerners know and other cultures do not know, and that we are forgetting.
In the midst of all the Kaos we have to be thankful for something – a doctrine does exist to take us out of this mess, and we should find something to be grateful for every day, a grateful mind is a healthier mind. I’m grateful that they didn’t have everyone walk around with their finger up their ass to prevent the spread of Kovid.

Emre 0
Emre 0
2 years ago

I’m glad, even if quite late, I found this article here. This is for me hands down the best short analysis about the mechanics of what’s been happening in recent politics in the English speaking world. From this grounding it’s possible to make sense of all the absurdities that have been happening recently such as limiting speech in defence of liberalism, discrediting actual science in the name of “the science”, confident announcements of new normals/trends which are fake, reasons for methodically telling falsehoods to people, hysterical reactions to free inquiry, etc etc.
In summary, Liberals have learned to be sophists – not sure they understand where this will take them to.

Last edited 2 years ago by Emre 0
Barbara Williams
Barbara Williams
2 years ago

We are hurtling towards self inflicted mass extinction and COVID is one indicator. Our choice structure at the moment does not encourage rapid voluntary Degrowth with regards to the drivers of environmental damage. We are obligated to strive to increase our numbers, our earnings and our technical efficiency despite the fact that all of these drivers of growth are implicated in the I=PAT equation derived in the 1970s. Not one political party is suggesting Degrowth, we have no choice but to participate in the Sixth Mass Extinction personally.